Continued from page 2

___

NFC WEST

This division is wide open and presumably won’t take much to win _ so why not the Rams? New offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has legitimate building blocks with quarterback Sam Bradford and running back Steven Jackson. They’re still thin at wide receiver and need to get better on defense. But it won’t take much improvement to grab hold of this division.

The Seahawks unloaded quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and linebacker Lofa Tatupu. Now they’re betting big that there’s more to Tarvaris Jackson’s game than the quarterback showed in Minnesota. Hmm …

In Arizona, new quarterback Kevin Kolb and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald form the foundation for what could be a decent offense. But last season’s unimpressive defense must improve _ and do so without Rodgers-Cromartie, the price paid to pry Kolb away from Philadelphia.

Things could be rough in the short term for the 49ers, as Jim Harbaugh must adjust to life as an NFL head coach without the benefits of an organized offseason program during the lockout. And, um, Alex Smith is his quarterback. A healthy Frank Gore would help greatly on offense, and wide receiver Michael Crabtree could benefit if Harbaugh’s West Coast offense takes root. Linebacker Patrick Willis must carry the defense.

___

PREDICTED ORDER OF FINISH (with records):

NFC EAST:

1) Philadelphia Eagles (12-4)

2) Dallas Cowboys (9-7)

3) New York Giants (8-8)

4) Washington Redskins (4-12)

NFC NORTH:

1) Green Bay Packers (12-4)

Story Continues →